Thursday, June 24, 2010

Alex Sheikman on Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard

Alex Sheikman (Robotika) is another of the three artists who contributed a short story to Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard #1. I asked Sheikman some questions about his story and the creation thereof for this piece on Newsarama, but didn't have room to include every interesting thing Sheikman had to say. So I'm putting it here. As with the previous pieces in this little mini-series of posts, my questions are in italics and the artist's answers are in regular font.


How did you come to work on this project, and why was it one you wanted to devote your time too? I imagine you must have been a fan of Mouse Guard previously?

Yes, I am definitely a Mouse Guard fan. In fact I was a fan ever since I saw the first black and white issue printed by Comixpress. When I heard that David was going to do an anthology type of series, I decided I wanted to try my hand at this great world that David created.

So I e-mailed David to see if there was a possibility of contributing to the project. It turned out that it was so early in the process, nothing has been set yet, but David told me that he already had me down on a list of possible contributors. I started working on putting the story together right away and was glad I got the extra time because of an early start.

How did working with David Petersen work? Did you have carte blanche to do whatever you liked? Was there a lot of discussion regarding your story?

David was great to work with. He already proved that he got “chops” when it comes to writing and drawing and he can now add editing to his comic book accomplishments. Both he and Paul Morrissey (who came in a bit later to make sure the story moved through production at a good pace) put up with all of my neurosis…

I had a pretty good idea of the story that I wanted to do for Legends and to make sure that I did not overstep any guidelines I did rough layouts (with some minimal scripting) right away and sent them to David so we could discuss the story itself and correct any inconsistencies it might have with the purpose of this miniseries.

It turned out that the only adjustments that I ended-up making, were more of a result of our discussion about storytelling and about how to make the story flow better.

What was it like drawing a story set in a world as thoroughly defined by another artist’s style and aesthetic? Did you find yourself trying to draw David Petersen-like at all?

What was it like drawing a Mouse Guard story? It was fun!

Being a fan of David’s art, I very much appreciate his style, both in his rendering technique and also his storytelling, but I did not want to mimic it. That would not be fair to the fans and it would defeat the purpose of Legends miniseries. So I spent sometime thinking about what made Mouse Guard unique and then I tried to interpret those qualities through my sensibilities.

For example, I feel that textures play a big role in creating a certain atmosphere in Mouse Guard. So I focused on how I can render lush backgrounds and gnarly trees.

Also the square format of the printed book is very unique because of how it changes the composition of the page. So I looked through Mouse Guard to see how David was using that format to enhance his storytelling and I used that as a springboard to develop the pace and rhythm for the story that I did.

Was it challenging working with animal characters as opposed to humans? It seems like a more difficult task to convey emotion in the face of a mouse instead of a human, particularly since the Mouse Guard mice tend to look more like real mice than overly anthropomorphic, funny animal types.?

That was a challenge, but it was a fun challenge that any artist would enjoy tackling. Every assignment brings something different and it offers an opportunity to learn something new.

A big challenge for me was the scale of things. I am so used to drawing everything in proportion to human characters, that it took me a little bit of an effort to adjust the scale of everything (rocks, trees, grass…) so that he mice did not look like they were six feet tall.

How different is the world of Mouse Guard from that of Robotika? I know Robotika has its own history and culture too, but I was thinking that pretty much anything could happen or show up in an issue of it, and I don’t think I’d be the least surprised, where as if a ferret with a robot leg or a mouse speaking Japanese showed up in Mouse Guard it would probably freak me out a little.

The two storylines/worlds are very different from each other, partially because they were created with different purposes in mind. However, I must say that idea about the Japanese-speaking samurai mouse is a good one…maybe in Legends II

Do you anticipate Legends of the Guard introducing your work to a different audience than the one that might read Robotika or some of the other stuff you’ve done?

It’s possible…my main focus here is to do something that might be slightly different than what David does in the regular series and hope that the Mouse Guard fans enjoy it.

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